Wednesday, 22 March 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
63. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Public Enterprise the representations, if any, she has made to the British Government since 22 February 2000 on the demand for the closure of the Sellafield Thorp nuclear plant. [8450/00]
Minister of State at the Department of Public Enterprise (Mr. Jacob): As stated in my consoli dated reply to several Private Notice Questions on 22 February, on receiving the three reports on Sellafield published by the UK Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) on 18 February, I immediately wrote to UK Energy Minister, Ms Helen Liddell and the UK Environment Minister, Mr. Michael Meacher. I also requested the RPII to meet with the NII's chief inspector to explore with him his thinking in allowing operations at Sellafield to continue for two months, while the safety problems revealed in the reports were being addressed by BNFL.
The RPII met with the NII's chief inspector on 22 February. At that meeting, the RPII pressed the chief inspector on this issue. In response, the chief inspector insisted that current operations at Sellafield were safe, but emphasised that if BNFL does not take the steps demanded of it in the NII reports the NII will use whatever enforcement measures are necessary.
I subsequently met the Minister Ms Liddell in London on 1 March. At that meeting, I re-iterated the Government's demand that the Sellafield reprocessing plant be closed immediately. In response, Ms Liddell argued that the safe operation of the plant had not been called into question. Nevertheless, she said that a root and branch shake-up was taking place within BNFL to deal with the problems identified in the NII reports. I pointed out to her that the only satisfactory outcome for the Irish public would be closure of the plant.
I also informed Ms Liddell of the Irish Government's intention to re-examine the issue of litigation against Sellafield in light of the NII reports. The Attorney General is following up on this examination at present.
The NII reports represent a damning indictment of safety management and procedures at the Sellafield plant. These reports undoubtedly call into question the credibility of BNFL and the whole future of the Sellafield operations. In line with the Taoiseach's recent statements to the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis, the Government will continue to exert maximum pressure on the UK to bring about closure of the plant.
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